What: MLS and Liga Bancomer MX have reportedly discussed the possibility of a superleague, encompassing clubs in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
Why it matters: The opportunities for partners in such a superleague would be enticing, with more than 50 combined markets across North America.
credit: Flickr/Paul Bailey
When The United Bid (), submitted together by the U.S., Canada and Mexico soccer federations, to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup () proved successful, speculation grew that the partnership between the North American nations could be expanded into other areas to further grow the game on the continent. Now fans are wondering what a combined Major League Soccer () and Liga Bancomer MX () might look like, as reports out of last month's Leaders Summit in the UK quote Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla as being open to further discussion.
"It's a possibility, a North American league," he said to reporters there. "We have to determine how and see the pros and cons, but I think that's a way to grow and to compete again. "If we can make a World Cup then we can make a North American league or a North American cup. The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world."
…[T]he combined North American entity for World Cup, the MLS-Liga MX superleague would represent a huge opportunity for multinational companies like Adidas and AT&T…
The Campeones Cup (), held in September between Toronto FC of MLS and Tigres UANL of Liga MX, can be seen as a direct manifestation of the same spirit of partnership that made The United Bid possible. Tigres won by a 301 count in Toronto, and while the building was half-full, the blueprint for future on-field matches of consequence was set.
"We think this opportunity with the World Cup in 2026 opens the door for us to make a lot of things different and better," added Bonilla.
"We have been discussing with Liga MX additional ways we can collaborate on and off the field," said MLS executive Dan Courtemanche at the same event. "We are excited about the future opportunities that exist between our two leagues."
The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.
So what would a combined North American professional soccer organization look like, beyond the Campeones Cup? Liga MX, which has been in existence for more than seven decades, is currently comprised of 18 teams across Mexico, and MLS, which began competition in 1996, comprises 20 U.S. and 3 Canadian sides. 41 clubs would seem to be an unwieldy number, but fans who follow college sports here know that "Power 5" schools, the largest NCAA programs, total more than 60 schools, each with huge fan bases over a diverse combined footprint.
For marketers, there may be some initial negotiation to be done with exclusive sponsors, at least until current deals expire, on both the MLS and Liga MX ends. But in the same way that partners will be working with CONCACAF () and the combined North American entity for World Cup, the MLS-Liga MX superleague would represent a huge opportunity for multinational companies like Adidas () and AT&T (), which have official partnerships with both leagues, and any of a dozen beverages, airlines and banks that could gain a foothold across the continent in one fell swoop. Not to mention what a Fox Sports, ESPN or NBC/Telemundo could do to attract broadcast advertisers for such a wide-ranging organization.
Some U.S. fans, their own squad not qualifying for World Cup, took to rooting for Mexico last summer. It would be in that spirit: a bold move, one which would have dozens of moving parts and would require concessions and copious amounts of cooperation and faith from both ends to make a reality. But sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole; getting huge organizations, with layers of politics and red tape to fight through, to subscribe to that concept might be too big an obstacle to overcome. But fans of the superleague can always dream.
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Jerry Milani @gbpackjerry
Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.
Honduran abortion law: Congress moves to set total ban ‘in stone’
Parliament in Honduras has initially approved a bill that will make it virtually impossible to legalise abortion in the country.
The new measure will require at least three-quarters of Congress to vote in favour of modifying the abortion law, which is among the strictest in world.
Honduras forbids abortion under any circumstance, even rape or incest.
Its latest move comes in response to Argentina legalising abortion last month.
Across Latin America, there has been increased pro-choice campaigning, known as the “green wave”, based on the colour worn by protesters.
The new legislation in Honduras hinges on an article in the constitution that gives a fetus the same legal status of a person. Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body.
The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favour, 28 opposed and seven abstentions.
Honduras has a stanchly conservative majority, which referred to the measure as a “shield against abortion”.
“What they did was set this article in stone because we can never reform it if 96 votes are needed [out of 128]”, opposition MP Doris Gutiérrez told AFP news agency.
Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.
“Every human being has the right to life from the moment of conception,” said Mr Pérez.
Ahead of the vote, UN human rights experts condemned the move, saying in a statement: “This bill is alarming. Instead of taking a step towards fulfilling the fundamental rights of women and girls, the country is moving backwards.”
Abortion has been constitutionally banned in Honduras since 1982.
In 2017, lawmakers voted on decriminalising it in the case of rape, incest or when there was danger to the mother or the fetus, but the move was roundly rejected.
Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti also have complete bans on abortion, but Honduras is the only country to also prohibit the use of emergency contraceptives in all cases, including after rape.
Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana and Argentina are the only Latin American countries to permit abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55764195
Mynor Padilla: Killer of anti-mining activist pleads guilty
The ex-security chief at a mine in Guatemala, Mynor Padilla, has pleaded guilty to killing an anti-mining activist in 2009.
Adolfo Ich was killed at the Fénix mine, which was owned at the time by a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant Hudbay Minerals.
He had been campaigning against the mining project and for his community’s land rights.
Germán Chub, a bystander, was also shot, leaving him paralysed.
The guilty plea comes at a retrial after Padilla was cleared of murder at a previous trial.
What happened in September 2009?
The Fénix nickel project was owned by the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), a subsidiary of Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals.
CGN wanted to develop the mine, but the indigenous Maya community objected, arguing that much of the company’s land belonged to them.
The company said it engaged in talks to negotiate their resettlement but members of the Maya community said they were threatened with forced evictions.
On 27 September 2009, security guards at the mine attacked members of the community with machetes and firearms, according to witnesses.
Adolfo Ich was killed, Germán Chub was left paralysed, and at least seven more people were injured.
What was Mynor Padilla’s role?
Mynor Padilla was the chief of security at the Fénix project and witnesses said he was the key man in the attack on 27 September 2009.
Hudbay defended its personnel, alleging that members of the Maya community had turned on each other and that their security staff had acted in self-defence.
Following a three-year murder trial Padilla was acquitted, much to the outrage of the victims’ families who launched an appeal.
What’s the latest?
The court of appeal overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial which began in December 2020.
After having for years maintained his innocence, Mynor Padilla entered a guilty plea which was accepted by the court on Wednesday.
A lawyer for Adolfo Ich’s widow in a civil lawsuit against Hudbay Minerals in Canada called it a “momentous day”.
Why does it matter?
There are three civil lawsuits under way against Hudbay Minerals in Canada, in connection with the Fénix mine.
One of them was filed by Adolfo Ich’s widow, Angélica Choc, who alleges that the company failed to take adequate precautions to ensure that human rights abuses would not be perpetrated by Hudbay’s security personnel.
In 2013, a court in Ontario allowed the lawsuits to proceed, making it the first time that foreign claimants were allowed to pursue a lawsuit against a Canadian company in Canada for alleged human rights abuses.
Cory Wanless, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that following Mynor Padilla’s guilty plea “it will be difficult for Hudbay to continue to argue that it does not bear responsibility for the killing and shooting”.
Hudbay Minerals has released a statement saying it would “review the court’s decision once it is released”, which is due to happen later this month.
The company, which sold the Félix mine to Swiss-based Solway Group in 2011, also stated that “any agreements made in the Guatemalan court do not affect our view of the facts of Hudbay’s liability in relation to civil matters currently before the Ontario court”.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55573682
Deepening divisions: Venezuela’s haves and have nots
The Hotel Humboldt sits atop El Ávila, a national park overlooking Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.
At more than 2,000m (6,500ft) above sea level, you have to take a 20-minute trip in a cable car to the top of the mountain to reach it.
From there, a golf buggy drives guests along the ridge to an impressive glass and aluminium structure surrounded most of the day by rolling clouds that suddenly clear to reveal the most astounding view.
The hotel was built in 1956. Finished in less than 200 days, it was the pet project of dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who ruled Venezuela from 1950 to 1958.
At a time of great oil wealth, it was a show of pomp and modernity.
It operated as a hotel for just a few years before falling into disrepair, but it has remained an icon, one that the late President Hugo Chávez wanted to restore to its former glory. After his death in 2013, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, has been intent on finalising the restoration.
“This building means so much for the Venezuelan people,” says Carlos Salas, one of the hotel’s managers.
He shows me around the hotel, which has just started accepting overnight guests after nine years of renovations.
“It’s a representation of a golden era for Venezuela.”
But that golden era is long gone.
The economy is in crisis, oil prices have slumped as has production and around 60% of Venezuelans now live in poverty, according to researchers at the Andrés Bello Catholic University.
Financially sound or a folly?
A stay at the Hotel Humboldt costs around $300 (£225) a night.
Clearly a lot of hard work has been put into restoring this architectural jewel but it is not your typical five-star lodgings. Indeed, the classification was awarded by the government which is promoting it, and the hotel is still a bit rough around the edges, despite having been inaugurated a month ago.
The Marriott hotel chain was given the concession to run it in 2018 but it did not stay long as partner. The team now in place is clearly proud of its achievements but in crisis-hit Venezuela, the hotel’s restoration feels like a folly, promoted by a president with his head buried in the sand.
“One banana here costs triple the price [elsewhere],” Mr Salas says, explaining the logistical challenges of getting supplies up the mountain to the hotel.
“My people here, we have to pay them more, the maintenance of the building, water, electricity, it’s really difficult.”
So what, I ask, is the demand for a hotel like this, in a country where the minimum wage is around $2 (£1.50) a month.
He responds without flinching, arguing that five-star hotels are not within everyone’s reach anywhere in the world. Venezuela is no different, he says.
The hotel is seen by many as a symbol of the rise of a group of newly wealthy Venezuelans, in particular those who have become rich thanks to their close ties to the government.
And Hotel Humboldt is not the only sign of an economic revival in Venezuela.
Faced with US sanctions, rampant hyperinflation and a spiralling economic crisis, President Maduro responded by removing the price controls and easing the capital controls introduced by his predecessor and fellow socialist, Hugo Chávez.
With the local currency increasingly hard to come by due to the sky-high inflation rate – a cup of coffee with milk can set you back almost 1.5m bolivars in Caracas – Mr Maduro also begrudgingly accepted the use of the US dollar.
The result of this easing of economic restraints can be seen across Caracas, where new “bodegas” (shops) have opened up, selling all sorts of imported goods to people long-used to shortages of even the basics.
The Caracas stock exchange is another beneficiary, booming because of an uptick in private enterprise, although it is still comparatively small.
A brighter future?
It has made life a bit more bearable for many, especially in this toughest of years, but not everyone is positive about these changes.
“The government is building on the ashes of this wrecked economic model in a very disorganised fashion,” says economist Tamara Herrera.
“This re-accommodation of the economy is amorphous, disorganised and positive results are difficult to judge. This won’t mend the tragedy that you can see in the population,” she argues.
And there is no doubt that while there may be an emerging class of haves, there are still plenty of have nots – those with little or no access to dollars, or basic services.
In the poor neighbourhood of Catia, on the outskirts of Caracas, I met former housekeeper Diurka González, who is helping out in a soup kitchen. Every day, the kitchen provides lunches for as many as 140 children, including her two-year-old daughter.
“My boss couldn’t keep me on because she was scared of the pandemic,” Ms González tells me.
She did not even earn $2 a month, but now she gets nothing. The soup kitchen allows her daughter to eat one decent meal a day.
A few doors down, Jonathan Fermenal is feeding his two-year-old daughter Samara with the lunch they have just picked up from the soup kitchen. He relies on the free lunches for Samara and his other two children.
Mr Fermenal’s wife, Laila, left to find work in Colombia at the beginning of the year.
The plan was for the rest of the family to follow a few months later, but then came the coronavirus pandemic. They have not been able to see her since.
“At the beginning, it was horrible, horrible,” he says about his wife’s departure. “My youngest was 18 months old, she was still breastfeeding and had to stop suddenly. The first month, I didn’t sleep at all.”
Mr Fermenal has had to learn to play the role of both mother and father. “For my wife it’s also been hard, everything is done by Whatsapp, a photo here, a voice message there, but it’s not the same,” he says.
“And the way I live is how thousands and thousands of Venezuelan families are living,” says Mr Fermenal about the more than five million Venezuelans who have left to escape their home country’s economic hardships over the past six years.
Lives – and hardships – that are far more common than those who invested in the Hotel Humboldt would like to believe.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55364444
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